Walsall 0 Middlesbrough 3
By Northern Echo
Updated Wednesday, 10th August 2011
Walsall 0 Middlesbrough 3
TONY MOWBRAY has spent much of this year telling Middlesbrough fans he wanted to keep Marvin Emnes and the last four days have helped to prove why.
Despite summer interest from Swansea City, Mowbray's reward for convincing the Dutchman to sign a new long-term contract now stands at four goals in as many days.
His efforts were helped by the dismissal of the League One club's midfelder Adam Chambers for a two-footed challenge on Richie Smallwood that left Boro facing ten men for 78 minutes of the match.
After that, however, it soon became the stage for Emnes to showcase his talent. If his first goal was predatory, his second was brilliant before he completed the victory with a neatly finished second half penalty.
There was added pressure on Emnes' shoulders last night, with strike partner Scott McDonald on international duty, but he delivered.
McDonald was not the only one. Williams (Australia), Barry Robson (Scotland) and Tarmo Kink (Estonia) were all away with their respective countries, so Mowbray's squad was tested to its limits in the second match of the season.
But while the absence of Matthew Bates, who is interesting Swansea City, was an intriguing one, the trip to the Banks's Stadium did allow summer signing Malaury Martin to make an early competitive debut.
Bates' omission provided an opportunity for Mowbray to try something different. Rather than adopt the two central defenders approach, he decided to add stand-in skipper Tony McMahon to the pairing of Seb Hines and Stephen McManus.
What that allowed was wing-backs Joe Bennett and Justin Hoyte to do what they do best push forward. The former going close after one clever run in to the box inside ten minutes.
And it was shortly after that when Chambers had a rush of blood on halfway. There was little danger, but the Walsall central-midfielder went in with two feet on Smallwood and he was instantly issued with the red card from referee Darren Deadman.
Walsall boss Dean Smith ambitiously retained two strikers even though he brought on an extra midfielder for the unfortunate Claude Gnakpa. It was a bold move that could have gone either way, but it soon backfired.
When Hoyte drove in a low centre from the right, Martin took a swipe and missed but the loose ball fell kindly for Emnes to side-foot low beyond goalkeeper James Walker's outstretched right hand.
Walsall occasionally probed to remind Middlesbrough they had to keep focused to stay in front. Defensively, though, the central triumvirate proved effective in the main ahead of Danny Coyne.
And eight minutes before half-time Emnes rewarded the visitors with a stunning second.
When Hoyte floated over a deep cross between right-back Darryl Westlake and Olly Lancashire, there was still plenty for the striker to do. He steadied himself and hooked a right foot volley powerfully beyond Walker from 12 yards out.
It is the Championship what matters to Middlesbrough this season, but there was plenty of promise against their lower league opponents to take them in to Saturday's trip to Leeds United.
Shortly after the break Smallwood looked to have scored only for it to be ruled out for offside and then he earned Middlesbrough's third.
The young midfielder's driving run and one-two with Lee Miller ended with Kevan Hurst tripping Smallwood in the box. Emnes claimed the ball and slotted his third of the night away with ease.
Walsall's supporters had reasons to be aggrieved with the display of Mr Deadman, but Middlesbrough never looked uncomfortable and finished the match off in confident mood.
Even when teenagers Cameron Park and Luke Williams were introduced during the second half, Middlesbrough controlled possession and Coyne was never seriously threatened on his 500th league and cup career appearance.
If there was any surprise it was that there were no further additions to the goal count, particularly when Westlake made a complete mess of a routine ball in to the box late on.
Park, lurking behind the full-back, reacted quickly to the loose ball but he was just unable to curl inside the far post, with Westlake still apologising for his blunder.
Middlesbrough, with the help of the officials and Chambers' rash lunge, will be faced with far sterner tests in the coming months. Last night showed, however, that Mowbray's work on the training ground is paying off.
Source: Northern Echo